India is perhaps one of the most integrated cricketing nations across the globe. WIth cricket being the most popular sport in the country, it’s no surprise that almost half of the young blood worship cricket. The legends Indian cricket has produced over the years, the supremacy it has established in world cricket and the recent success it has been adhered to, has increased the interest and participation manifold. Indian cricket has a well laid foundation with organized inter school and college tournaments distributed around the country. Nurturing young talents, giving them the right facilities and ensuring their all-round development has always been a prime agenda for BCCI. India’s recent U19 triumph is also a clear reflection of the same. Showered with millions of blessings and social media wishes, these young guns have certainly made the nation more proud.
Lead by Prithvi Shaw, under the able guidance of Rahul Dravid, the Indian colts have finally broken India’s Finale jinx of ICC Tournaments. Having lost last 7 ICC tournaments in the last 4, it was important for Indian cricket to finish this tournament on a high. Consistent performance, passionate gameplay and smart, intelligent and wise utilization of the skillset has been the highlight of this tourney. However, the thing that impressed the most was the ability to stand up for the team when needed. In the 6 matches played, India has had almost 6 different match winners. Starting from the watchful openers in the inaugural match to the blistering hundred from Manjot Kalra in the finals, every Indian player has been aware of the situation and his consequent responsibilities. Though India’s lower middle order was never tested, their swiftness in the field and involvement in the game has been second to none.
Man of the Tournament, Shubhman Gill also bought an interesting balance to the squad. Hard hitter of the ball yet well constricted to text-book cricketing strokes, the temperament and hunger to score big that he possessed impressed one and all. His hundred against the arch-rivals Pakistan is perhaps regarded as the best in the tournament. Coming in at a crucial time, he along with Anukul Roy, another young exciting talent, steered India home to a safe total. Roy also turned out to be India’s best spinning bet along with Abhishek Sharma and Shiva Singh. The trio snatched up almost 30 wickets in the competition. Anukul’s 5-for against PNG, 4-for against Zimbabwe and the 2 crucial wickets in the finals stimulated the India’s path towards glory.
HArsha Bhogale empathized, ‘You expect a young Indian side to bat well. And this team batted splendidly. But the big difference lay in the quality of quick bowling.’
Along with the spinners were the ever-so-fast Indian seamers. Ishan Porel and Shivam Mavi provided the perfect support and blasted round the opposition along with Kamlesh Nagarkoti. Being the talk of the town from the inaugural match itself, Kamlesh’s ability to hit 145-150kph consistently also earned him a Rs. 3.5cr contract in the IPL. Ishan too kept the batsmen busy and guessing with his thoughtful variations to make him an undoubted highest wicket-taking Indian seamer. The efforts these young guys put in, the sincerity and perseverance they showcased and the ability to switch gears that they possess is something Indian cricket would look forward to. With great power comes greater responsibility, it’s up to these players to make it count on the senior level and it’s something everyone would expect from the champions.
However, contribution of Rahul Dravid and Paras Bhambrey along with Venkatesh Prasad led selection panel cannot be neglected. Battling controversies, Dravid prioritized coaching the U-19 team against a lucrative IPL deal. He sowed in the sense of belonging into his players, he introduced discipline and stood tall as a protective WALL when needed. Along with worthy support staff, Dravid and Paras worked on every aspect of cricket. The title is certainly a fruit to the cricketing tree they’ve been nurturing for the last 2 years. Another creditable cause of success is the scheduling of matches for the colts. BCCI ensured that everyone was given the required playtime and proper infrastructure was provided for improvement. It’s these little things that has propelled India against the stream to glory.
Rahul Dravid had it spot-on. “The challenges and the hard work starts from here. The hard work begins for them and for us as well, as to how we manage these boys over the next few years. Even if not a lot of them go on to play for India, it can happen. It’s not easy to get into the Indian side.”
It will be interesting to see how the colts keep up with the game pressure. The sincerity and promise they have showcased strengthens India’s hopes of being a cricketing superpower. Worth a wait, this 3rd U19 championship is deservedly the most celebrated.